I must admit, I have not always been a big fan of female singer/songwriters. It always seemed like everyone that I listened to sounded the exact same. The lyrics were the same, the guitars all sounded the same. I was bored, quite frankly. But one day, while working on some press releases and sharing some news right here on rickyleepotts.com, I came across this performer. I went straight to iTunes, took a listen, and was immediately impressed. With songs like Hold Me and Pull Me Back, she took me for a ride of lyrical bliss. Her vocals are fantastic; her voice is unique with a hint of truthful attitude. The strokes on her piano keys are fitting, and her sound quickly became addictive. Long story short, I wanted to learn more about her and her music. So I contacted her in request of an exclusive artist interview. A few days later we were on the phone and chatting about everything from where she was born to where her inspiration comes from. It’s my pleasure to sit down with Julia Othmer.
Tell me Julia, where are you originally from?
I was born in Kentucky, and grew up in Kansas City. When I was seventeen, I moved to New York City to go to school. Did a short stint in Boston, came back to Kansas City, then to San Francisco, then Philadelphia and now LA. In some ways, I feel like I am from all of these places… most of them I still call “home.”
How long have you been performing?
My parents tell me when I was little, I would line up my stuffed animals and present speeches (this was before I could even talk!) So I guess the desire to perform was something I was born with. And ever since, I haven’t been too far removed from the stage – whether it was classical piano concerts growing up, doing theatre and acting, or delivering fundraising and community awareness speeches for a non-profit I used to co-run. It’s only been more recently that I have been performing my original music… from which I get the biggest rush. The stage is where I feel most alive.
What’s it like living out in LA?
LA is a curious place – hard to sum up. I still feel like I’m new here though I have been here for several years. It’s the first city I’ve lived in where I STILL don’t completely know my way around… one of my New Year’s resolutions is to explore LA far more in-depth, so I’ll get back to you on that one!
Do you have a job outside of music?
I spend the majority of my time with music – writing, performing, recording, learning… I’m always open to other possibilities and if something comes my way that feels light, I go for it.
You play solo as well as full band. Do you prefer one over the other?
I prefer having the resources, flexibility and preparedness to do both and all variations in between. Sometimes I do duo and trio shows and depending where I am performing, the musicians change up. It’s such a privilege to play with others and different musicians tend to bring out different aspects of my songs. My performances morph given who is on stage… of course in the music, but also the vibe of the show and the relationships we have as performers. There are songs that I perform only when i have a band and also when it’s a band show, I almost always play some songs solo.
How cool was it appearing on the Lilith bill?
Amazingly awesome… a very “shazaaam” experience.
Did you get to hang out with Sarah, Kelly, and all those gals?
I would love to tell you that we all shared a bottle of wine and swapped stories, but Lilith was on a rigorous leg of the tour when I was there. Everyone was really focused on putting on a strong show for all of the fans. So even better, we were all on the same stage together performing! Sarah generously invited us to join her for an encore… and to make eye contact with these women while singing… I would love to have more of that!
Tell me a little bit more about Oasis Motel.
What would you like to know? I’m really proud of that album as it’s a very accurate picture of where I was when it was recorded. The musicians who came together went above and beyond… we recorded the main instrumental tracks in only three days and we all met the morning of the first day. I literally had a stack of songs and we kept choosing songs off of the top. Everyone was truly professional and it brought me out to live in LA. Now I am really looking forward to my next studio project, which I am currently in pre-production. It’s exciting to bring new material out and also to show what I’ve been up to and where I am now. I’ve experienced a lot of musical transformation since the Oasis Motel and I am excited to share that…
Michael Blum has worked with some big names in the music industry. How did you get connected with him?
I played NXNE (a music festival in Toronto). A music attorney I had met years before in New York City came to my showcase. I was looking to record and he offered his help. He introduced me to the work of several producers. I listened to everything and felt that Michael Blum would be an incredible fit. Within three weeks, I was flying out to LA to record!
Is it weird being married to your bass player?
I don’t see him as “my” bass player. I married the man I love, and who is my best friend. He happens to play music and that also happens to be how we met. We really enjoy performing together and he understands me musically better than anyone. He also performs/records with a lot of different projects and I have certainly worked with other bass players. We never feel obligated to perform with one another; it is a pleasure. (And i don’t have to pay him!)
What is the biggest crowd you have ever played for?
Probably Lilith Fair…
Wait, does a high school marching band performance during halftime at the Kansas City Chiefs game at Arrowhead Stadium count? I did the whole polyester uniform with plastic shoes playing piccolo and flute…
You are all over Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube. Heck, you are even on last.fm. How do you have time to keep all those social sites updated?
I’m not sure that I do keep everything updated. It can be a job in and of itself to be a consistent presence via the media. I do what I can, when I can… that’s another one of my resolutions… to be more INTERactive…
You travel all over the country performing. Is it possible to pick a favorite venue?
A favorite venue? More than a venue itself, I really value the relationships around it, like the owner, the booker, the sound person, the staff… a building is just a building until the people who run it make it come alive… I have a lot of gratitude for those venues who are considerate and respectful of audiences and performers… a great sound system WITH a knowledgeable sound person is always a HUGE plus… more than anything, I love playing in venues full of folks who love live, original music – especially my music.
You recently had a show at Rockwood Music Hall. You lived there, but have you performed in New York City before?
Yes… I started performing out live in Philadelphia once I moved there and New York City was a natural place to play… Though I don’t envy the musicians who regularly have to haul gear AND find a place to park in that amazing city.
How can I get you a show here in Indianapolis? I am sure the Circle City would love to see you perform!
Call my manager! I would love to play Indianapolis.
I think “ear candy” is a great way to describe your voice. Would you agree?
If only I had a sweet tooth!
What would you be doing if you were not performing?
I’d go back into non-profit work of some kind… (I used to work with Tibetan refugees and co-ran a non-profit theatre company working with at-risk youth)… maybe the Peace Corps… maybe work in disaster management and conflict resolution… maybe build something… a school… public water works… something to contribute…
What does a typical Friday night look like for you?
Given the non-traditional work week I have, my Friday often is like someone’s Tuesday night… my work doesn’t really have a weekday/weekend or holiday schedule… it varies so much – maybe I would be staying in and reading/writing OR seeing live music OR having friends over for a big potluck foodie bonanza… I sometimes have very reclusive tendencies (I love being at home and in my studio) so I attempt to strike a balance.
Are you excited that the Beatles are finally on iTunes?
If you could only perform one song for the rest of your career, what song would you choose? It can be a song you have written, or a cover song.
There’s no possible way I could answer that one…
You have twenty-four hours to live. How do you spend your last day?
Asking for an extension.
If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you go?
My own tour bus… way later on, we’ll have to see… some contenders are Stockholm or Berlin… maybe the Croatian coast…
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Writing, performing, writing, performing, recording, recording, touring, touring… (reading/learning/taking lessons).
What do you want to be remembered for when this is all said and done?
I’d love for my songs to be remembered… the stories they tell… as for me personally, I’d love to be remembered as someone who gave one hell of a dinner party!
I always let the artist get the last word. Go.
Thank you for taking the time to spend with me and my songs.